Hurricane Hilton

MH900175582Last week I attended a 4 day convention in Seattle where there were several glitches on the dietary front.

The kitchen at the hotel failed miserably on Thursday and Friday, but by Saturday they had figured it out at least for the final dinner.  In the meantime, there were a lot of starving authors sharpening their pens and busily writing culinary reviews that were less than glowing.

When we reserved our place in January, we were asked what dietary requirements we had, and were given many options.  The breakfast buffet was nothing but donuts, muffins and bagelsnone of which are vegan or gluten-free – options that were offered to registrants at the time of my original sign-up.

I am not gluten intolerant, but I am vegan, and not for moral reasons. I am vegan for health reasons, as I get horribly ill from eating even small amounts of meat and dairy. So, when I realized there was NOTHING for breakfast or lunch that I could eat, I figured I’d just go to the restaurant and order side dishes off the menu. I have usually found that to be an option that works for me. After all, hash browns and steamed veggies are usually easy for the kitchen to turn out.

MH900400553When faced with a simple request, such as, “Can I have veggies sautéed in olive oil instead of butter please?” or “May I have my toast with no butter, please?” the waiters and waitresses got the deer-in-the-headlights look.  

I know what it’s like to be faced with a horde of prima donnas who think they should have special treatment.  I worked in the food service industry as both a waitress and a dishwasher, and I was a hotel maid for 12 years, actually, during the Reagan and Bush Sr. years. That was one of my 3 jobs. I was also a free-lance bookkeeper and a darkroom technician during those years. Three part-time jobs kept the kids fed and the roof over their heads, right?

Trickle down economics didn’t always trickle down too far.

It’s amazing how many hotels and restaurants are not prepared for guests with strange dietary needs like those weirdo hippy-freak vegans.

I get it, and I understand it.  I left good tips in the VERY expensive coffee shop anyway, because everyone did their best, and why be more of a pain than you have to be? My fried spuds and steamed veg averaged $15.00 to $20.00 per meal for breakfast and lunch for 4 days. Hurricane Hilton blew through my wallet leaving behind a budgetary disaster.

curry and sweet potato soupBut in this case, I was not the only hungry author there.  There was little concession made for any of the other people who’d been offered diet options, including the carnivores.  In fact the first three days were total catering catastrophes, and hardly anyone was pleased with the pathetic offerings.

By Friday, things were looking up for me but the Carnivores were starving. The catering team had gotten the 3 vegans at the convention served, and the plate they put in front of me was lovely.

Yep. There I was alone, surrounded by starving authors, armed only with a plate of grilled asparagus.

The carnivores were all looking at my veggies covetously. Irene Roth Luvaul suffered worse than me. She was told that  A: they had run out of food, and B: they weren’t going to cook any more. 6 people at our table were yet to be served.

Irene is an editor. Did I mention that? Just in case I didn’t, I will just say it’s bad juju to cross an editor. And the room was full of them.

There was blood in the water.

The announcement that no food would be forthcoming didn’t fly well with the comma-Nazi. Irene said, “What do you mean, you aren’t going to cook any more food?” Her clipped Texas tones could have shaved the fur off a cat at fifteen feet, they were so sharp.

This was the voice of the woman who edited briefs for the Texas State Supreme Court. She wrangled lawyers for a living.

The server brought her a plate of cold ravioli in pale tomato sauce.

Faced with a resounding plea-bargain, Irene desperately wished she was a vegan, and eyed my asparagus with longing.

However, by Saturday night the catering staff had redeemed themselves beautifully with a lovely, well-prepared meal that even the gluten-free authors were pleased with, along with copious quantities of decent wine, proving that giddy, well-oiled authors are a bag of fun.

Despite near starvation, it was a fun week, and meeting Greg Bear was awesome. But making new friends and connections with both sides of the industry was the best part of this for me.

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4 Comments

Filed under Battles, Fantasy, Food, Literature, Uncategorized, Vegan, writer, writing

4 responses to “Hurricane Hilton

  1. That is how I felt asking for vegan when I was at the NACDA convention. You would have thought I asked for live eels or something. BTW…loved the “shaved a cat” comment.

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    • Thanks Joan – after all, how hard are steamed veggies to make! I think it is the fact that I ask to have something that isn’t pre-prepared – so they either have to pry the cheese off it and rinse off the butter or cook it from scratch. Some restaurants are really not set up for that! Most large chain restaurants, seem to have scripted food that is mostly prepared in factories, and all they have to do is warm the majority of it it up. This is why their menus are identical from Alaska to Florida and so is the quality of the food they serve, right down to the soup. Nothing is prepared from the raw food on the premises. Bags of salad are opened, frozen soups are thawed.

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  2. I love this hilarious if very truthful post, especially since I was there to see your reactions to it all. You are indeed a very patient woman, even when you are hungry. But I gotta say: Who you callin’ a Nazi??!

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    • heh heh. I gotta say, you have the ability to git-er-done in a manuscript or in a restaurrant! We did have a great time, and the people we met are just awesome, both the traditional publishers and the indie presses, all the great authors – it was exhausting and wonderful.

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